Friday, May 18, 2012

Who needs Rush Limbough when we have Cross Currents?

If you're puking all over your shoes this morning it might be because you've read Phillip Lefkowitz's complaint about Affirmative Action on Cross Currents, a complaint that will be familiar to any fan of All In the Family.

In brief, Archie Lefkowitz says he once upon a time knew a Jewish kid named Jerry who was turned down by Brooklyn College the same year a black kid with a lower GPA was admitted. Then Jerry committed suicide. So, case closed, Affirmative Action is evil. Alert the Supreme Court.

There are so many things wrong with Lefkowitz's approach, its difficult to keep track. For instance, we're not sure why Jerry committed suicide. It helps Lefkowitz's argument to claim that Jerry threw himself off a roof because he was upset about having his College application rejected, but come on: Does a healthy person respond to adversity this way? Isn't it more likely that Jerry suffered from some mental disease, and that he might have eventually committed suicide even if Brooklyn College had accepted him? Or maybe the mob was after him. The point is we don't know.

Another problem is that Lefkowitz's opposition to Affirmative Action rests on the belief that Jerry suffered an injustice, but that's not clear either. Maybe more went into the admission decision than GPA? The black kid might have written a better essay or dazzled an admissions officer at his interview. Or perhaps the college simply wanted a diverse student body. You're not owed admission to a college simply because you've met a set of objective criteria. Harvard doesn't admit every H.S valedictorian who applies. A college is entitled to take other factors into account for the sake of creating a certain student population or student experience.

In private correspondence with one of the ranking Gedolei Torah, I added the following observations:

Greater injustices that this are committed by the admissions department of any yeshiva. Where are the angry protests from Cross Currents? Why is it that a yeshiva can pick and choose from among applicants based on criteria as nebulous and undefinable as "our type" and no one says boo, but let a college choose based on some desire to meet some objective or subjective criteria of its own and suddenly its a Spanish inquisition?

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